Frustrated Lions say lots to work on
COMING THROUGH: Rhys Webb of the British & Irish Lions makes a break during yesterday’s opening tour match in Whangarei THE British and Irish Lions admitted to having “plenty to work on” after a scrappy New Zealand tour opener where they struggled to a 13-7 win over a New Zealand Provincial Barbarians side yesterday.
Coach Warren Gatland described the performance as “not quite accurate in some really critical moments”.
Before a sellout crowd of 20 000 at Toll Stadium in Whangarei, it was the Barbarians, a side of relatively unknown New Zealand provincial players, who set the standard for most of the game.
Lions captain Sam Warburton admitted the Barbarians had exposed areas the Lions needed to address in the countdown to the first test against the All Blacks on June 21.
“We’ve got plenty of footage now to work on,” Warburton said as he reeled off a litany of problem areas.
“Some defensive things, improve our attack organisation,” he added.
“They stretched us a bit, (we) gave away a few penalties, a few too many at the end and let them back in with some territory, and better teams are going to punish us a bit there further down the line.
“We needed to win a few more defensive collisions, we want to pride ourselves on defence ... and on attack ball retention. That’s what wins test matches.” Tour openers are always a concern for a Lions side, with limited preparation and travel fatigue resulting in a lack of polish making points hard to come by.
For Gatland, who has promised all his players a start over the first three games, the opening match would not have answered many questions about the shape of his first test lineup. There was only one successful penalty by Johnny Sexton in the first half as the Lions trailed 7-3 at the turn. It took 52 minutes before Anthony Watson scored their first try.
Gatland was reluctant to name names when questioned about who had impressed.
“It was tough on those guys. They were given the responsibility of getting the tour off to a win,” he said.
“They needed to be a bit more clinical in terms of finishing off the chances that we created. There was some good ball carrying out there (and) some impact off the bench.” The last time the Lions were in New Zealand, in a 2005 tour, they were held to 17-all at half-time in their first match against the provincial Bay of Plenty side before pulling away to win 34-20.
This time they found it even harder to secure control. — AFP
See Results column for yesterday’s Super Rugby matches